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In the garden: I do believe the cukes are starting to be ready

46 days from the second week in June, and they were from flats....

IIRC, last time I ate with sliced and spread with crème fraîche and some good salt. Extravagant, but not extravagant for a complete meal.

Unfortunately, I also spotted a Japanese beetle sitting comfortably on one of the cucumber leaves. Presumably, they won't go for the cukes since they have a whole raspberry patch and some roses for decoys, but, what if:

japanese beetles are TERRIBLE here in Western Pa. We were mad when they ate our roses and furious when they attacked the wisteria but when they discovered the pole beans and cucumbers we declared war! We bought a beetle trap which was full in no time then we put up the yellow plastic cups with clove oil for cuke beetles and found that the japanese beetles can't stay away from them! Every day they are disgustingly full of japanese beetles with the occasional cuke beetle for good measure..I won't touch them but Randy strains out the dead beetles , puts the cups back in place and waits for more of the nasty things to kill themselves!

Clove oil seems to work as an attractant. I don't like that approach with pheromones, so I'm not I want to use clove oil. Then there's tayuya root powder.... And beneficial nematodes...

If only hummingbirds ate Japanese beetles! I have four of the loveable little critters dive-bombing each other right now. Apparently not, but there are alternatives:

Birds such as grackles, meadowlarks, starlings, cardinals, and catbirds have been reported as significant predators of JB adults. In addition, pheasants, chickens, ducks, geese, and guineas readily feed on the beetles. Starlings, grackles, crows, and gulls also devour large numbers of JB larvae.

I have or had a pair of cardinals this spring -- florid male, more modest female -- so it sounds like that's my best approach; more living things in a more complex system, instead of the bait approach, which sounds like work, a grim treadmill, when I read the threads about traps, and yellow cups, and all the recipes seem to involve insecticides.* Here's how:

Some birds love to eat Japanese beetle, so attract them to your landscape with birdbaths, feeders and nesting boxes that are nearby where you have beetle problems. Don’t chase away starlings! These birds may be considered pests, but again, they have a great purpose when it comes to Japanese beetles. They eat the adult beetles and the grubs in the ground.

Aha! Now I understand why (for some definition of "why") my subconscious was forcing a card about a water feature! To attract birds! One reason I like gardening is that, at least for me, it's been possible to arrive at an answer that's right for the system from incomplete or even wrong premises. And when you think about it, that's a far more exciting and adaptive skill then reasoning to the right conclusion from correct premises, is it not?

So, project for next year, making the usual assumptions about not losing the house, etc.: Attract beneficial birds! One of the things the "birdbaths, feeders and nesting boxes" approach misses out on is plants. For example, I wonder if I should plant anything near the water feature that would attract birds, if only with color? (I did notice that birds were collecting straw from the sheet mulch, presumably for nests, so I ought to time my sheetmulching effort to nest-building time.)
NOTE * It's like the beetles are marks, and the bait is the con. Something to be said here about the wrong turn this country has taken.

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nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

Gardening for wildlife! My (current) favorite topic! Next to gold fish, anyway.

What birds love is a big old mess! Just about anything you plant will attract some variety of bird; some plants are better at it than others.

The guy who I help to manage the Demonstration Garden is just about the most anal retentive person I have ever met; he HATES any form of mess, whatsoever. Unfortunately, gardening for wildlife is messy; nothing nests in the gardens at Versailles. French hydrangeas are pretty, but otherwise are a wildlife desert....unless you have dozens of them planted too close together and well mulched, in which case the Brown Thrashers will love you...It has taken years for me to prove to him that if you want wildlife, like birds, you have to give them what they need.

Bird food: So if you have the space you will need trees (over and understory), shrubs, perennials and annuals that support the maximum amount of cover, bugs for insectivores and still produce some type of mast for the vegetarians. For every vegetable plant you will prolly want three "weeds" somewhere else, for example. Don't ignore your soil; lots of rotting mulch means lots of worms and bugs. So, it sounds like you already have a lot of this in place.

Housing: Most birds can find what they need for nesting materials pretty much anywhere, but hanging out bags of hair in the Spring (your own or from dogs/cats/ferrets....) is something that they will appreciate. Nesting boxes/shelves can be made from nearly anything that won't heat up; gourds are fun. You can determine what types of birds you want to attract and tailor the sizes and holes to them, specifically.

Water features should be out in the open but close to cover (around ten feet), shallow and easy of access and egress. Something as simple as a shallow hole filled with cemented together rocks is just irresistable to most birds. This is also another opportunity to attract bugs into the garden. Of course, you can also get other critters, so be mindful just what kind of habitat you are prepared to know, bears and stuff. The smaller the water feature, the less likely you will get nuisance wildlife....of course, the word "nuisance", like weed, is subject to interpretation. It is a trade off; skunks vs. mosquitoes. skunks get you bears, mosquitoes will attract bats, you know, whatever you are into.

It is a really exciting topic, and you will be amazed at how fast your habitat progresses once you determine the species you want to attract. They are just desperate for a home and will move in as soon as they see what you are up to.

Up at the Garden I planted a (small) wildflower meadow last year on what was an eroded bank and we have already lost count of the the different kinds of bugs living in there, so it was especially exciting when the flock of goldfinches moved in a few weeks ago to eat the black eyed susan seed. We never had those before, and they only showed up when we gave them some bug fodder to wallow around in. We never had bluebirds until we put out their boxes, and they have had five clutches this year! just takes so little to make them happy; create a big old mess and they will come in droves.

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Submitted by quixote on

"birds love a mess"

hahaha. So true. I used to live in a place where the landlord stored an old couch under a tarp next to the house. It was a cheap tarp and started to disintegrate in a couple of years. The birds started pulling at the upholstery because you never know. It's fiber-y and might make good nest material! Didn't take long before they got to the stuffing layer underneath. Then they really went crazy. The couch bloomed in white puffs all over. (The landlord didn't care about the couch and I didn't tell him to have it taken away because I was having too much fun watching the birds.)

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

It really is all grist for their little mills, isn't it? The wild stuff one finds in nests when one cleans out their boxes in the Fall. The best ones are crows, though; marbles, keys and pieces of tin foil, anything shiny that they can get into their nests is fair game.

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Submitted by V. Arnold on

...birds and they are smart as a whip (so-to-speak). I watched them throw nuts on a road and fly to the nearest electric line to watch the cars drive over the nuts and break them open. The crows would then fly down and eat the results.
The first time I saw this it absolutely blew my mind. I've never looked at intelligence the same way ever since; we know nothing...

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

We have a redtail hawks nest nearby and it is unbelievable how the crows will chase them around. Mockingbirds do that too, but those crows are just incredibly brave; one would think the hawks would pick one off occasionally, but they are always in packs.

I guess that is why they call flocks of them a murder of crows.

Submitted by lambert on

I was walking under a crow perched on a telephone pole, and it dropped a dead prairie dog right in front of my feet. It could have waited another few seconds and dropped it on my head, which is how I know it was joking.... This was in California. Yes, we know nothing. I'm of the view that everything is intelligent, even rocks. Although rocks aren't very intelligent.

Submitted by lambert on

Toads, ladybugs, praying mantises.

Maybe ripping out too many of the weeds would be a bad idea. What I will say is that I vehemently oppose the idea of bark mulch. It reminds of dead skin. I would like every square inch of the garden to be alive in some way -- except I don't want quack grass and thistles and things of that ilk. I'll put up a photo of a weedy area tomorrow for comment.

Adding, not gonna put out hair, unless it scares off deer or woodhchucks, because of the ick factor. Besides, I don't have any pets. And I don't have a dead sofa. I've got pink insulation... But they might like that, because it's prickly.

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

While they would LOVE pink insulation for nesting material I would not use it for the same reason that one does not use dryer lint: it snags the nestlings and mats up when wet....and it is made of glass, so there is that...And if you want praying mantises, etc., ya gotta give 'em something to eat too! A messy spot somewhere would be just the thing for them....

Hair does deter both wood chucks and deer; it's the smell...and it does smell. It is also made of nearly pure nitrogen which breaks down verrrrrrrrrry slowly; IOW, it is nature's form of osmocote. There is a really cool book by Gary Larson (of the boneless chicken ranch fame) called "There is a hair in my dirt!"; a sweet little story about earthworm dinner time...I highly recommend it if you get the ick factor thinking about hair in your garden. You are not alone. :)

Bark mulch is for people who either do not know what they are doing or are too cheap to replenish their mulch on a regular basis; your instincts are spot on. The best is pine straw or wood chips straight from the chipper; great for the soil! The stuff was literally made to rot and build soil. Crushed pine bark is good as a long lasting soil amendment for promoting drainage, but otherwise it has little to commend it..........

Submitted by lambert on

I could go to a local barber shop and collect clippings, I suppose. But woodchucks seem to be in April and May (mine left for parts unknown) and deer in June onward. When do birds build their nests? And is there any way to get the effect and help the birds, and avoid the ick factor? It seems reasonable to put it round the perimeter of the garden, but then (ick) I have step over it, or worse, if I ever get round to weeding, kneel near it.

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

Ha hahahaha! Oh, how funny!

I am not even going to mention the nitrogen content of urine, now. If placement is a problem you might just want to just throw it on your compost heap. the birds will find it when they want it. They can find ANYTHING quickly, no matter how obscure a place you put it, so I wouldn't worry too much about that. I wish you well in getting some from your barbershop, though. I tried that when I had a big garden, I wanted to plow it in, but apparently there are laws about them giving away hair. Something about cloning or something.

Like we are all going to go home and clone other people in our kitchens. Really? REALLY?

Anyway, I still get a laugh out of that. For woodchucks, just get it wet and throw it down their holes. I don't actually know if that would work, but it is worth a shot, anyway. Woodchucks are a Northern phenomenon known (to me) only from the writings of people like Michael Pollan. They sound like big chipmunks. A friend of mine chucks tiny smoke bombs down their little holes and they immediately scatter out all of their entrances; do it a few times and they get tuberculosis and move on, or something.

Anyway, he says it is fun to watch, so it has that going for it.

I just view them here at home as a free aeration service that also attracts rat snakes. We had this rat snake that lived here for a few years that we called lumpy, because you could actually see all of the chipmunks he had eaten in a series of little bulges. He apparently ate his way out of a living and now we have neither.

Maybe a really big snake? :)

Submitted by lambert on

They need to accumulate lots of body fat for hiberation, so when they get into a garden, they can devestate it in a day.

They also dig humongous, school bus-sized burrows, and that can undermine foundations. And the house is on a slope.

So woodchucks make me very nervous. Mothballs at the most of the nest did it, this year. I'd really like to make sure they aren't moving back in to over-winter, however.

A friend suggested a rubber snake in the garden. That might be a good idea.

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Submitted by katiebird on

We read somewhere that woodchucks and groundhogs and/or moles are (might be) afraid of cats and that if you put (used) kitty litter & fur around it will (might) scare such beasts away.

We haven't had any trouble since doing that -- but it's hard to prove either way because they don't bother us consistently.

Submitted by lambert on

That's the issue. "I painted myself blue and ran out of the house hollering at 7AM for a week. No more deer!" Well, who's to disprove it?

I have heard the same thing about hair and kitty litter, but now I see the logic. All I can say is that I have never tried it... Can't get a real cat now, as I said, if I want birds! Or don't want to lure birds within reach of the claws of predators, bless their hearts, if any.

katiebird's picture
Submitted by katiebird on

My first thought was to offer to send you some but then a whole movie about how insane an idea that is flashed across my brain.

Do you have any friends or neighbors with cats?

Submitted by lambert on

The mothballs did it, so I'm going to assume I'm fine. (I am an area with no dwellings around me, so no cats, not even barn cats. I could always go to the store for kitty litter.)

But it's a kind thought!

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

I have found that it really is a numbers game. The snakes do scare birds, for good reason, however they breed more quickly, are faster and can fly; kind of a tradeoff there, but one that favors the birds. The birds will fill any area left by the snake so most of your real estate is safe territory at any given time, and the birds know this.

Lumpy never stopped this house from becoming a bird sanctuary, but, unfortunately, the neighbors' cats prevented it from staying one. Where is Lumpy when you really need him? The little bastards live here now......I love cats, we have three strays that we took into the house, but those little fuckers really do need a good (?)........Rubber snakes fool no one for long and soon become purely decorative.

Those woodchucks sound pretty horrendous. You would prolly need one of those South American anacondas to deal with them, and from what I hear they are not very nice. (business idea: rent an anaconda? What do you think? Moneymaker?) The good news would be that the birds were completely safe, though I doubt anything else would be. I very rarely advise anyone to borrow a gun, but it sounds like that may be your only option. To big for a trap, a humane one anyway, and poisoning is simply not an option unless you have rats in your wires.....that's a tough one. Maybe woodchucks taste like guinea pigs? Maybe a few Peruvian guinea pig recipes are in order just prior to calling out the local hunting club? I hear that Sara Palin has a new reality show....She has gotta be good for SOMETHING....

Smoked woodchuck on a bed of quinoa, anyone? Little hot sauce...put an apple in its' might be good....certainly an "experience". Something to liven up the Rotary Club potluck, anyway.

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

Where is the delete? I just merrily type things in and then hit save, and the little circle turns, and turns, and I add something, and the circle turns, and something about the rotary club occurs and the circle turns................and then I end up with a minimum of two silly comments that say virtually the same thing!

This computer stuff will forever be beyond my ken.

Submitted by lambert on

... because you can imagine carnage in a worst case scenario if people could delete their comments (or edit them).

I may be having some sort of server issue. Periodically, it wobbles. Don't hit submit twice.

Submitted by lambert on

... but so far, nothing serious has happened. This year the mothballs seem to have worked, praise dawg.